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First student in university history graduates with physics, chemistry and math majors

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Matthew Hilliard graduated Saturday, May 10 with a physics, chemistry and math degree.Matthew Hilliard graduated Saturday, May 10 with a physics, chemistry and math degree.After the excitement of graduation day settles, many newly minted Georgia College alumni will inevitably begin the search for that perfect spot on the mantle to display their degree. For graduate Matthew Hilliard, that perfect spot will hold a degree that carries a bit more weight than most.

On Saturday, May 10, Hilliard was the first in Georgia College history to graduate with three majors in physics, chemistry and math. Triple majors are rare at the university, but degrees in these three areas of study together have never been achieved before.

“I toured a handful of other colleges, and UGA was a big one on my list, but coming from a small town, I knew I wouldn’t feel at home there,” said Hilliard. “The moment I stepped foot onto Georgia College’s campus I fell in love and knew this was the place for me.” 

The Pelham, Ga. native began his undergraduate studies in 2009 and entered as a chemistry major, even though his passion rested in math.

“For me chemistry seemed more of a challenge and I liked that,” said Hilliard. “It wasn’t until I became interested in the engineering dual program that I realized I wanted to go a little further. But after I’d been here a year, I didn’t really want to leave because of the friends and connections I’d made.” 

Hilliard marks Dr. Ken McGill, chair of the Department of Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, as one of his most influential mentors during his time at the university. McGill also served as Hilliard’s adviser and encouraged him to consider triple majoring.

“I did advise him that there was a great deal of overlap between the majors, and that we would do our best to accommodate all three requirements,” said McGill. “The hard part would be class schedule conflicts, but we would work it out.” 

Indeed it has been a tough road for the graduate, who clocked 20 hours in his final semester of college. Learning to balance school and social life has been the key to Hilliard’s success, and it’s the advice he gives to his peers.

“I’m always telling others in my programs to focus on time management and find other ways to be active in college other than academics,” said Hilliard. “I don’t think I would have been as successful with my majors, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I chose to be so involved with intramurals during my time here.”

Hilliard has been accepted to Auburn University’s Graduate School in Chemical Engineering and starts May 16. He plans to pursue a job in the industry and eventually begin his own consulting firm.

“You never know what path you may take,” said McGill about Hilliard’s success. “I expect when Matt started at Georgia College he never thought he would be leaving with three degrees.”  

Although met with shock and awe over his accomplishments, Hilliard says it’s a certain sense of self-motivation and the help of the university that has enabled him to achieve this level of success.

 “I made the right choice with Georgia College. I was provided with an environment where I had such great support from students and professors every step of the way,” said Hilliard. “Everything I’ve done was because I truly enjoyed it and because I wanted to make a difference—and that’s what’s led to my success.” 

ABOUT GEORGIA COLLEGE: Georgia College, the state’s designated Public Liberal Arts University, combines the educational experience expected at esteemed private liberal arts colleges with the affordability of public higher education. Its four colleges – arts and sciences, business, education and health sciences – provide 6,600 undergraduate and graduate students with an exceptional learning environment that extends beyond the classroom, with hands-on involvement with faculty research, community service, study abroad and myriad internships.

Founded in 1889, Georgia College boasts one of the most beautiful campuses in the nation with Corinthian columns fronting red brick buildings and wide open green spaces. Georgia College also offers graduate education at the historic Jefferson building in downtown Macon, at Robins Air Force Base and online.

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